If It Sounds Good - It Is Good!
— Duke Ellington


If you don't know what SAAS is, it means 'Subscription As A Service'. 

Last week, Roland (Very Big Important name in Electronic Music Products) introduced it's 'new' D-50 software synth (whose hardware original was created in the 1980's) and it's a cool thing because the D-Series had a very unique sound for its time and is still very useful here in the new Millenium. Here's my problem with this (and why the title and introduction sentence) - it's only available in their 'Cloud' subscription service.

SAAS is a hot trend in the Technology Services. It's where a lot of things are going, and for some products it's quite reasonable. It's an affordable level of entry and usually offers extras that add to the value proposition. For other goods or services, it's a level of friction that borders on stupidity and/or sheer greediness.

Adobe started this whole subscription thing several years back with their Creative Cloud. For a monthly fee, you have access to any (or every!) software product they make. For media houses and larger companies, it makes sense to pay a blanket license and have all of their developers, designers, and needers of All Things Adobe access to the latest versions, offsite storage, and every single bit and bob they need to get their job done. For Jane Q. User who just wants to make her vacation pics a bit snappier, the $10 a month for the simplest plan makes no sense when she could just buy an app that does what she needs for just the cost of one of those months.

Music Software has latched on to this trend and it's growing rapidly. Avid only does SAAS for Pro Tools (unless you get PT First, which is severely hobbled feature-wise and then stubbornly wants you to subscribe to its plugin store, as it will only use those and not the ones you currently own). A Pro Tools (Standard) license is $25 per month (if you commit to a year's Subscription, otherwise it's $30 month-to-month - and don't forget you have to buy a $50 iLok as well!). You can also buy their 'Perpetual License' which will set you back $600 and then you have to pay $100 per year (after the first year) to maintain it (that's Perpetual?). As a wee bit of savings, this version comes with its own iLok, and it's the same as the boxed edition you can buy at retailers. Oh, did you want HD? Just mortgage the farm and kids... :)

It's also worth noting that their Sibelius notation software is Subscription-only as well, and obviously an additional expense if you need Scoring capability. Avid has had this system going for several years now, and I just don't understand this model. It's understandable for MEdia Houses and large companies and 'professionals', but just needlessly expensive for Jane Q. User, and especially for those 'graduating' from Pro Tools First. There is just too much competition out there for this to be sustainable on the low-to middle end, but then again we've talked about this before...

Softube, Slate Digital, Eventide, and McDSP also offer Subscription plans for their Effects and/or Software Instrument Plugins. These are typically 'Bundles' of effect types (or everything they make - similar to the Adobe model), and can be a good deal from buying them individually if you absolutely need a Metric Frackton of processing power and your DAW doesn't have any (very rare these days, although Pro Tools still trails behind all the competitors in this department, and is most likely the market they are aiming for). So this sounds like a good idea until you step back and take a couple of things into account. Read on for what and why...

Let's go back to Roland, the D-50, and their Cloud offering. Again, you cannot buy this plugin (or any of them save for the Aira Plugout Series) directly - you have to buy their Subscription plan, which is currently $20 a month (they call it a 'Beta') and at some point this will go up to $30 a month according to their website. They also mention something called a 'Storm Subscription' which has no details and will cost $40 per month... Anyway, there are currently 17 plugins available in Roland's Cloud Subscription (and more coming certainly), so if you break it down at the 'Beta' pricing you are paying $14 per year for one of those plugins. But what if you only want (or will most likely use) one or two of them? Refactor the math and the cost goes up to $120. Per year. And who knows when they up that price on you...

Personally, I don't want everything they have on that list - I only want that D-50. So I would be paying Roland $240 every single year for that lone Software Instrument. Insanity. A quick Ebay search shows several real D-50 hardware keyboards for less than $500. So, for less than 2 years of their subscription plan, I could buy the original hardware, use it, play it, record with it, take it out to gigs, and even sample the shit out of it to create my own library to use whenever I want to. Oh, and I own the damn thing too. It's mine to do with as I please, and will not suddenly stop working if I decide to stop paying Roland their Blood Money for their Cloud.

Didn't think about that one did you? This is why 'renting' your DAW, Plugins, or other creative software needs to have every possible circumstance thought out in excruciating detail because:

  • If you miss a payment - your stuff might not work. Take a minute and think about all the possible reasons - your fault as well as others - that this might happen.
  • If you don't have Interwebz access - your stuff might not work. Again, there are so many possible reasons for this occurring...
  • If the company ups the price out of your affordable range, or decides to end the Subscription plan (or goes out of business) - your stuff won't work, and you are out $$$ with nothing to show for it.
  • Lastly, You need to calculate the cost benefit of the SAAS service and see if it's comparable to outright buying - especially to a similar product from another vendor. Marketing Departments  tout every tiny little possible benefit of their offering to make those happiness receptors in your brain flash like a broken VR headset so you'll click the Buy button. Use the Roland Cloud example above to see how this breaks down so you can do your own calculations.

If these companies were smart (and I say this about all SAAS providers), they would give us the choice to buy the product(s) outright or pay for a Subscription Service by offering both. If you decide that after a year or so that you'd like to switch from one to the other, they should make it doable, painless, and cost effective. We are your customers, and each one of us are the reasons you are in business. If you need this in simpler terms, try this: We like choice, so give it to us or we'll find someone who will! I have several SAAS apps and services, and have chosen them for their convenience, functionality, and return on investment. I have also dumped many software products and found replacements for them because the idiots in charge decided to 'hop on the money train' and switch everything they do to just a SAAS model. Choice wins every time, and your short-sightedness is someone else's opportunity.

Caveat Emptor.

While finishing up this Post, Lord Smithers® informed me about this very interesting Model:

East/West Sounds has a Sound Library SAAS model that comes in 3 different versions and might be a really good value if you need high-quality sounds for projects (just note that the top of the line Subscription requires you to also buy their hard drive for the libraries). High-end (typically Orchestral) sound libraries are not cheap if you want (or need) quality. For most people, what comes with their DAW or Plugins will do fine, but working professionals in film, TV, and other media productions have to have top-notch sounds that take a lot of time and skill to record, edit, and reproduce effectively - hence the cost of them. This is a smart way to get those composers the sounds they need when they need them at an affordable price.

Very intriguing, but again - Caveat Emptor.

The Secretive Genius

June 2017 Dynamics Check